Murder in Fayetteville

Sister says brother is victim of hate crime, police aren’t doing enough to find killer

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: May 2, 2009 in Cover Stories

Update (May 11, 2009): A suspect has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the case of Jimmy Ali McCollough’s murder. Read the breaking news story.

FAYETTEVILLE — The sister of a murdered drag performer says police aren’t doing all they can to find the killer of her brother, 34-year-old Jimmy Ali McCollough.

In the early morning hours of April 14, officers with the Fayetteville Police Department found McCollough dead, lying on the edge of a roadway near a gay and lesbian nightclub in this town that’s home to Fort Bragg, one of the Army’s most important bases of operation. As reported at Q-Notes.com on April 14, it took several hours for police to initially release the identity of the murder victim. Since then police have maintained silence about the case, citing the “sensitivity of the ongoing investigation” in their clamp down.

Known to many LGBT community members as Imaje Devera, McCollough was a performer at Club Emages on Swain St., located just one street over from where McCollough was found in front of 119 Joseph St. Several attempts to reach club owner Dy’Mond Cartier have been unsuccessful, but she told Raleigh news station WRAL that police had said McCollough had been stabbed and that the case was being investigated as a hate crime.

Kathy McCollough, Jimmy’s 27-year-old sister, told Q-Notes that she feels police haven’t adequately responded to the crime.

“I do not believe they have done all they can,” she said. “I have emailed and I have called quite a few times. Specifically, I emailed the police chief. I’ve gotten no response.”

She says the only interaction she’s had with police was when they notified her of her brother’s death.

McCollough performed as Imaje Devera at Club Emages, formerly Club Spektrum.

McCollough performed as Imaje Devera at Club Emages, formerly Club Spektrum.

“They are looking at this as a young black man who cross-dressed and prostituted,” she said. “They are not working on the case as hard as I think they should be. I don’t think they are taking every little lead and going with it and chasing it to see if it could lead to my brother’s killer. They just aren’t working hard enough.”

Club Emages wasn’t open on the night McCollough was found on the side of Joseph St., so it is not entirely clear why McCollough was in the area. However, sources close to the victim have told Q-Notes that he was involved in prostitution as a way to support himself.

Sister Kathy McCollough admits that her brother had a hard time finding a regular job, because so many people knew of his drag performance. In some instances, it isn’t rare to see transgender or other gender-variant persons forced into sex work as a means of financial survival.

According to police reports available online, the Joseph St. and Bragg Blvd. areas are known to have an unusually high crime rate, with reports of prostitution, armed robberies and aggravated assaults, including one wherein the victim was shot (although not fatally wounded).

Update (May 11, 2009): A suspect has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the case of Jimmy Ali McCollough’s murder. Read the breaking news story.

But information about the events surrounding McCollough’s murder have remained scarce. Police have kept a tight lid on releasing new information and key sources have never returned phone calls made by Q-Notes. Any ideas on how or why McCollough was killed remains purely speculative.

Kathy McCollough is hopeful the investigation will turn up something. She said she believes her brother’s death was the result of a hate crime, perpetuated solely because of her brother’s drag persona.

Kathy and Jimmy didn’t grow up together in childhood — she says her brother grew up in nearby Samson County — but, nonetheless, they’ve always been close, especially after Jimmy moved to Fayetteville. Her three-year-old son, she said, is too young to know much about the death but does know his uncle is gone.

Jimmy Ali McCollough, 34, was found dead on the side of Joseph St. in Fayetteville.

Jimmy Ali McCollough, 34, was found dead on the side of Joseph St. in Fayetteville.

“He knows his uncle isn’t here anymore,” she said. “He’s at that age where he wants to know why, but that’s really the only part he doesn’t understand.”

Kathy also has a two-year-old child.

She said her brother was a caring person. “If he saw you walking down the street and you needed something, he would give it to you,” she said. “He always had a smile on his face where ever he went.”

Jimmy was also active and involved in the community, she said. He volunteered with Operation Sickle Cell in Fayetteville.

By press time Fayetteville Police Public Information Officer Theresa Chance had yet to respond to several phone calls seeking more information about the case; it is not known whether investigators have any leads or any suspects.

Sadly, McCollough’s murder came only hours before jury selection began in a high profile murder case of a teenage transgender woman in Greeley, Colo. In that state, prosecutors were able to use a transgender-inclusive hate crimes statute against defendant Allen Andrade; it marked the first time in the nation a murder case used hate crimes legislation to prosecute the killing of a transgender victim.

On April 23, just as Q-Notes was wrapping up production on this issue, a jury convicted Andrade of first-degree murder. North Carolina has no similar hate crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation or gender-identity and expression.

Ian Palmquist, executive director of the statewide LGBT advocacy group EqualityNC, said in a statement on April 20 that McCollough’s murder was another reminder that anti-gay and anti-transgender violence still exists in North Carolina.

Fayetteville Police flier distributed in last week of April

Fayetteville Police flier distributed in last week of April

“While we don’t yet know whether this death was a hate crime, we do know that our state laws fail to recognize the possibility of hate crime based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Palmquist said. “It’s long past time for those categories to be added to our state’s existing hate crime law.”

He added, “Our condolences go out to Jimmy’s family and friends. We call on local police to fully investigate this crime.”

Anyone with information or tips regarding this investigation is encouraged to contact the Fayetteville Police Department Homicide Investigation Unit at 910-433-1856 or call Crime Stoppers at 910-483-TIPS (910-483-8477).

[Ed. Note -- Since the preparation and publication of this article, the Fayetteville Police Department has issued a follow-up press release asking for assistance and tips in the on-going investigation of Jimmy McCollough's murder. A $1,000 reward has been offered.]

Update (May 11, 2009): A suspect has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the case of Jimmy Ali McCollough’s murder. Read the breaking news story.